Amendments have been made to the practice and case management rules around Child Abduction Proceedings due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The new guidance will be in place until further notice.

 

International Child Abduction and Contact Unit:

 

The ICACU staff are now operating remotely and are encouraging other Central Authorities to submit applications by e-mail as ICACU has no physical presence at their offices in line with the current Government guidance on social distancing. Documents sent by regular post will not be received.

 

The ICACU general email address for new applications and enquiries is ICACU@ospt.gov.uk.

 

The Legal Aid Agency:

 

The LAA are currently operating as usual; however, obtaining evidence for financial assessments for applicants may present difficulties during this time. Appreciating the situation, the LAA has usefully issued extra guidance, which is available here.

 

Issue Procedure – All Applications:

 

All applications will be treated as without notice applications and will be heard in the urgent applications court. The restriction on such applications has been suspended.

 

The public counter in the Clerk of the Rules office is currently closed due to the national health emergency. Solicitors, who have an HMCTS payment account, commonly called a PBA, electronic issuing is possible via rcj.familyhighcourt@justice.gov.uk.

 

The application notice or the covering email should indicate that it is an application to be issued electronically and should contain the following in the email subject line: URGENT: NEW 1980 HAGUE CONVENTION APPLICATION FOR ISSUE. Otherwise, the applicant will need to invite the court to address the question of the issue of proceedings in the first order (and a provision included in the draft).

 

Service:

 

Parties will be permitted to serve orders prior to them being sealed by the office of the Clerk of the Rules. Each order will be endorsed with a statement that the order is effective without a seal and may be served pending the court sealing the order.

 

Effecting personal service should only be attempted if safe so to do. Otherwise, service by e-mail or posting through letterbox will be considered sufficient in the first instance (and a provision to this effect should be included in orders), subject to any other direction of the court.

 

Child Abduction Mediation Scheme:

 

The operations of the court based Child Abduction Mediation Scheme are suspended only insofar as they provide for face to face mediation at court. The Child Abduction Mediation Scheme will continue in all other respects to be operated by Reunite remotely.

 

Each party will be expected, prior to the first on notice hearing, to make contact with Reunite by email on reunite@dircon.co.uk or by telephone on 0116 2555 345 in order to consider mediation.

 

Participation of Child:

 

The Cafcass High Court Team are able to, and have commenced interviewing children remotely. The Cafcass High Court Team has access to Skype for Business to permit them to give evidence by way of video.

 

Likewise, papers will be received electronically and henceforth all papers should be provided to them in electronic format. The email address is highcourtgm@cafcass.gov.uk.

 

Hearings:

 

Hearings, unless there is a direction by the Judge otherwise, will take place remotely (that is to say the Judge, the parties and, where relevant, their representatives, will attend the hearing in different locations but by means of technology). Upon such an order being made, each party and/or their representatives must take immediate steps to obtain or ensure that they have access to appropriate technology in preparation for that hearing.

 

No less than 48 hours before the hearing the solicitor for the applicant is expected to contact the respondent or his or her legal representative to make arrangements for the hearing to take place remotely if required and to co-ordinate those arrangements with the court (and with any interpreters if required). Where the respondent does not have access to a computer, the hearing will take place by telephone conference.

 

Tipstaff:

 

Tipstaff orders will still be available in the usual way and the Tipstaff will continue to discharge his responsibilities, subject always to any operational constraints imposed by the current public health emergency and any current or future Government guidance. The Tipstaff office can be contacted by telephone on 020 7947 6200.

 

Tipstaff requires a sealed order for the discharge of existing port alerts and passport orders. Unsealed orders will not suffice. In the circumstances, Tipstaff orders will need to be sent directly from the Judge/Clerk/Associate to the Tipstaff once sealed.

 

Priorities within court during coronavirus:

 

Below are two lists which differentiate priority between certain types of cases:

 

Want to know more? Contact us!

 

We are operating as usual, and are on hand to help with any legal enquiries you have.

 

Call on 020 7928 0276, or email into info@lisaslaw.co.uk.

 

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